News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Valley Life

February 26, 2010

Grant to improve Rockville library computer stations

ROCKVILLE — Rockville Public Library has received an Opportunity Online hardware grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help provide free, high-quality access to computer work stations for the Rockville community. The two-year grants program will provide funding to replace and add work stations in libraries. The program is focused on helping libraries serving populations most in need because of lack of quality connectivity in their area and lower income populations. Eligible libraries must match a certain percentage of the grant.

With almost 40 percent of Americans still lacking Internet access at home, libraries are a critical link to technology for many who cannot afford the service on their own. Millions of Americans use computers and the Internet at public libraries to earn long-distance learning degrees, start and advance small businesses, find critical health information or jobs, get e-government information, and more.

“Computer and Internet access have become essential services that our patrons demand,” said Library Director Cindy Hein. “It is critical that we have the resources necessary to properly maintain these technology tools so that our library can help all people in the area access the information they need to thrive and contribute fully to our community.

While nearly 100 percent of U.S. public libraries now offer free computer and Internet services, many struggle to maintain them as budget cuts threaten to reduce operating hours, limit access to technical support and make it difficult to keep pace with new technologies.

“It is virtually impossible to succeed today without access to computers and the Internet,” said Jill Nishi, program manager of the foundation’s U.S. Libraries initiative. “Fast, reliable online access can open a world of economic, educational, and social opportunities. It is imperative that all communities acknowledge the role our libraries play in providing this service and give libraries the support they need to continue providing critical technology tools long into the future.”

Opportunity Online hardware grants are expected to be the last grants given by the foundation to fund computer upgrades in U.S. public libraries with vulnerable technology, but the foundation continues to support libraries through investments in Internet connectivity, research, training and advocacy.

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